Thursday, April 20, 2006

How Many Cabins To Make A Village?

Tom Kane has a good article in today's Marion Daily Republican about the cabins of Olde Squat Inn northeast of town.

PITTSBURG - Some people collect stamps or coins. Jim Grisley of Pittsburg collects log cabins.

Most of the cabins date from before the Civil War. He has 14 buildings on his Pittsburg property and seven of them are for rent as part of a bed and breakfast business he calls Olde Squat Inn. Not one of the 14 buildings is newer than 1874.

I've never been out to see the place though I know I should.

The most interesting aspect of the story comes towards the end of the story. Besides the 14 cabins standing, he has 17 in pieces in storage ready to reassemble. Overall, his goal is 100.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lincoln Museum Celebrates Anniversary

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield celebrated its first birthday today. Some 600,000 visitors have toured the exhibits since opening. For comparison the Bill Clinton Presidential Library only attracted 500,000 visitors its first year.

I was up in Springfield last week. Although I was supposed to be researching I decided I really didn't want to and walked on over to the museum. It was my first time touring.

The "Ghosts in the Library" multi-media event is fabulous. Even though I thought I recognized the technology before it started, I actually became more confused as the presentation ended. If you haven't noticed, I was paying more attention to how everything worked rather than the content.

Still, the content in that theatre should serve as an excellent opener to students to what historic letters and documents can reveal.

Compared with the "Ghosts" the "Eyes of Lincoln" presentation isn't as technologically impressive. I would strongly encourage anyone to see that one first.

Although the history is presented in such a way to be entertaining and engaging, I understand the flak the library's received for its disdain for facts if they don't fit the decor (in the case of the rug in the Emancipation Proclamation room or the fake generic regimental flag in the "Ghosts" presentation). For that, the flak is deserving.

However the Disney-fication of history complaint is a bit too harsh. None of the displays are real. It's a brand-new building, so fake and entertaining are OK if it works to convey the message.

The real problem is the poor condition of the historic sites across Illinois controlled by the state. Here's where history really took place.

For these sites, lack of staff has kept more than half the sites shuttered and mothballed for years, and those sites lucky enough to be open have limped along with hours only for five days a week. A recent announcement for part-time seasonal hires at some of the sites will help, but not if they are filled with political hacks and not persons enthralled by history.

The state does not have a long-term plan to open and staff the sites it owns. That needs to change, or all the efforts made so far to preserve history will be just that — history — with nothing left to show for it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Architects Selected for Old Slave House

The Illinois Capital Development Board may have forgotten the state capital was in Springfield when they relocated their April meeting to Chicago yesterday, but they didn't forget to select an architectural firm for Project # 104-620-002, which the state likes to inaccurately describe as "Renovate the Crenshaw House".

Surprisingly in my view CDB tabbed Ratio Architects Inc out of Champaign, Illinois, and Indianpolis, Indiana, for the project. My money was on White & Borgognoni Architects from Carbondale who did the work on the Old Rose Hotel in Elizabethtown and on some big historic preservation projects for the state in Springfield.

Still it will be interesting to see what becomes of the this project. There's $150,000 attached and CDB and IHPA can't seem to agree on a definition of what's included for the price. CBD uses the verb "renovate". IHPA limits their statements to basic repairs and weatherproofing, as well as a historic structures report.

From the budget front, have not heard any news about funding for the site, though the budget talks between the governor's office and the Democratic leaders controlling the Illinois House and Senate have broken down and everyone's taking the next week or so off.

In case you're wondering who's at fault. It's the Republicans' somehow.

The chances of a major capital projects bill passing are looking slim to none, though there's hope in the House for a scaled-down $500 million package for school construction.

Still it will be interesting to see what happens next. I look forward to meeting the good folks at Ratio.

Is the Region Ready for a Heritage Area?

The Southern Illinois broke the story yesterday about SIU's efforts to get Southern Illinois designated a National Heritage Area.

Having attended some of the meetings, I can tell you that this is not a panacea. It's like everything else in the region. It's not the designation. It's what we do with it that will make the impact.

Still, it's a step in the right direction. I'll have more later.

Here's the SIU page with more information.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

'Serious Christians', Politics & History

Last Thursday, fellow Illinoize blogger Dan Johnson-Weinberger, took a gentle swipe at religious conservative voters in his post, "Meeks, Blagovich, Topinka...".

(Meeks reminds me that those Christians who take the teachings of Jesus seriously are economically liberal — chasing the money-changers out of the Temple and all that).

My first response is that only those who don't know much about economics are economically liberal. Not only do socialism and communism don't work, they also deny the existence of the individual, his needs, desires, work and responsibility. Capitalism works not because it was ordained by God, but because so far it's the best system that caters to the individual.

Now for the spiritual response. I had actually been thinking for the past few weeks about the misconception you have, because a surface reading of the scriptures would back up your position.

New Testament Christianity is all about the personal responsbility of the believer. Only I can make a decision about accepting Jesus. My parents couldn't do it for me, and I in turn won't be able to make that decision for my children. I can dedicate them to God in a church ceremony after their birth, as my parents did with me (a first for our Southern Baptist church).

Parents can set their children on the right paths, but there will come a time when each and every child will mature and have to make their own decisions and take responsibility for them.

The money changers in the Temple bit has nothing do to with economics. It's about respect for God. The money changers had turned a place of faith into a commercial bazaar that profited from those with faith.

Your belief that "serious Christians" must be economically liberal is actually from the Luke's Book of Acts which tells the early history of the church following Jesus' ascension.

Before that, Jesus had told the diciples, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John was baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5 NIV)

Ten days later during the Jewish Feast of Weeks, also known as the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the group of believers giving each the power to speak in every tongue so that no matter where the Jewish pilgrims to the Temple came from in the Roman Empire and beyond, each heard them speaking in their own language.

"Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs - we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "what does this mean?" (Acts 2:7-12 NIV)

Keep this in mind. At the crucifixion, among his believers only John, likely the youngest of the Apostles, and the women in his ministry remained to witness his death.

By the time of Jesus' ascension into Heaven 40 days later, many of those who had previously fled in fear had returned and the church of believes numbered 120 according to Luke (Acts 1:15).

On the Day of Pentecost following the gift of the Holy Spirit that morning Peter preached what may have been the greatest sermon ever delivered by man. "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins," summed up the message.

"Those who accepted his messaged were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." (Acts: 2:41)

I mention this only to set the stage for the verses that come next, the verses that you originally sought dealing with the first Christians in Jerusalem.

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42-47)

So why don't Christians today do the same? It's a good question.

The first thing to remember is that Luke was writing a history of the church. He wrote two books later compiled into the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

In the latter book he begins by writing, "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen." (Acts 1:1-3).

In the former he began as follows:

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:1-4)

Luke wrote the Book of Acts no earlier than late 61 or 62 A.D., or about three decades after Pentecost and the church of his description. It's very likely that the early church in Jerusalem was unique.

At this point all of the Christians were Jews. The apostles went to the Temple in Jerusalem every day to pray and preach. This didn't sit well with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish elders, of whom only one or two openly professed themselves as believers. They fought and plotted against the believers, and even jailed the leaders, but to no avail.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

More persecution followed as did continued growth. Eventually, the apostles found it necessary to find assistants for the distribution of food. From this crisis they appointed the first seven deacons to the task.

"So the word of God spread. the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)

Stephen, "a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and mirarculous signs among the people." He also generated opposition from the Synagogue of the Freedman, who found witnesses to testify falsely against him before the Sanhedrin. Stephen didn't defend himself, but instead proclaimed his faith and pointedly accused his accusers of their failings.

"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him — you who have received the law that was put into effect through angles but have not obeyed it." (Acts 7:51-53)

The speech infuriated those present. Without a ruling, the crowd dragged him out and stoned him to death making him the first Christian martyr for his faith. With their taste of blood unquinched, the mob then attempted to destroy the church.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godley men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them into prison. (Acts 8:1-3).

That's what happened to the church, all in a matter of months, no more than a year or two following the resurrection.

Obviously, persecution didn't stop the church. It was just dispersed. It's also the last time the church was described in such a way, and probably the reason why Luke emphasized it so as it represented something different than the gatherings of believers three decades later.

So what about economic systems? Does the Bible say anything to Christians about economic policy? It actually does in two places in the New Testament. Both Matthew and Luke in their Gospels related Jesus' parables on the talents, a unit of currency worth about $1,000.

The two parables are different account, but similar in theme. In both cases someone with money entrusts various portions of it to others to invest and protect for a length of time. In both cases, those who grew their amounts were rewarded proportionally. Those who did nothing with it, but didn't lose any, were punished for their inaction.

First, it should be noted that most commentators view these passages as warnings to believers not to waste the spiritual gifts they have been given. Still, there are lessons of a monetary nature that Christians should overlooked.

If you're not a Christian this may not apply to you, but as a Christian who believes my political beliefs - actually all of my public actions - should reflect on my spiritual beliefs, then I take this seriously. I don't like being called a hypocrite.

The last thing to explain is why I see no moral authority in progressive tax rates as economic liberals do. The tax of the Old Testament (and carried into the present through the New Testament) is the "tithe". I'm oversimplifying it a bit, but that was just a 10 percent flat tax payable by everyone (or at least every producer).

If Illinois needs a higher flat tax rate than the current 3 percent, then that's a legitimate political argument for society to decide. I personally think raising taxes will hurt our economy. For the most part that's what general tax increases do.

To call for a more progressive(ly worse) tax rate structure as a moral need, I will strongly oppose because I see no scriptural reason for doing so.

It's the responsibility of society to take care of those most vunerable. That's not liberal or conservative, Christian or whatever. What we are debating over is how we accomplish our collect responsibility.

That's what so many are finding fascinating about a possible candidacy by Senator Meeks. He skews across the ideological divide that defines the modern Democratic and Republican parties. I'm not in his camp — yet; but if he decides to seriously enter the race, his candidacy will challenge me to review how I weigh my vote.

Call for Papers

The Illinois State Historical Society’s Symposium Committee is announcing a call for papers on the theme "Knowledge on the Prairie," for presentation at the 2007 Illinois History Symposium in Springfield.

Papers, panels, presentations, and video documentaries on all aspects of Illinois history will be reviewed, with special consideration given to topics and presentations focusing on teaching in the classroom. Proposals are welcome from scholars, graduate students, teachers, amateur historians, filmmakers, museum curators, librarians, and geneologists.

Proposals should include a one-page description of the proposed topic, a list of primary sources to be used, and the presenter’s curriculum vitae. Deadline for proposals is June 30, 2006.

The 2007 Illinois History Symposium will be held in conjunction with Illinois State University’s 150th anniversary on the campus in Normal. For more information about the symposium, call the Society office at 217-525-2781.